My First Conference Experience

Photos & Text by: Rick Bucciarelli

My First Conference Experience

My name is Rick Bucciarelli.  The day John Kennedy was assassinated I was 12 years old.  As with most people (except George Bush and Richard Nixon), I remember exactly where I was when I heard JFK was shot.  I was in my 8th grade Math class.  My teacher, Mr. Barnes, rushed in out of breath and announced to the class that the president had been shot. It was shortly after 1:30 PM EST.  Within a half hour the announcement came that President Kennedy had died. Shortly after we were sent home.

 I grew up in a suburbs of Philadelphia that was mostly Irish/Catholic.  Kennedy was beloved in our town. I ran the mile to our house.  We had just moved into a new house the beginning of the month.  And just two days prior we received delivery of our first color television.  It was a big event back then.  Neighbors were stopping in to watch the news, cartoons, shows and even commercials.  But this was no way to break in our new set.  My family watched all day and night.  Back in 1963, stations went off the air typically about 1AM.  We watched through the tears as our country’s history changed that day.

We were glued to the set Sunday morning.  We anticipated seeing the creep that killed our beloved JFK. How could he?  I hated him.  He looked like evil incarnate.  Then the shot.  Oswald dropped to the ground and reporters scrambling to get a good look.  My first reaction was good – I’m glad they got him. It wasn’t till much later in life that I would realize the negative impact his dying would have on this case.

Within weeks life went on as a twelve year old.  A life dominated by school, sports and music.  I remember there was a commission formed but didn’t pay much attention and never heard on the people selected to investigate.  When my teenage years hit we were consumed by the Vietnam War. I was convinced my government was doing it to prevent Communism from overtaking the world.  I lost one of my best friends in that war.  I never tied the two events together in my mind until much later.

I graduated from college and got a job teaching elementary school. I taught history from the text books the school district made available. I never doubted the historians.  Then in March 1975 I watched Goodnight America with Geraldo Rivera.  He had Robert Groden on his program and for the first time on TV we were going to see the infamous Zapruder Film.  I had seen the stills in Life Magazine.  But this was going to be a first.  When I saw Kennedy’s head explode and watched him driven back and to the left it changed me.  How could that be?  Oswald was behind hm.  Doubts crept into my mind and I underwent a significant change.

In 1980 I changed jobs and went to work as a sales representative for a Fortune 10 company.  But I also became an avid reader of all things assassination.  It was “Best Evidence” by David Lifton that was the impetus for my quest for more information.   I couldn’t put the book down and read it for the first time in two days.  It was chilling.  It changed my perspective on my government. Using Lifton’s techniques and tracked him down by phone to ask him questions.  It was possible back in the days of LAN lines. Reaching out to him helped me to realize that the assassination wasn’t just about JFK but about real people that were forced into this drama. People like naval employees at Bethesda.  Also, people like researchers dedicating their lives to find the truth.

Once the internet was developed, besides reading, I became consumed with watching videos and movies.  I went to see JFK in 1991 several times.  I don’t remember what year it was that I saw a video of a JFK Conference.  I don’t remember which conference it was either but I was so jealous.  Having all these researchers in one place.  Getting to meet them and become an insider would be fabulous.  I didn’t know how to get invited or if it was open to the general public.  But I had to go.

But once again life got in the way., job promotions and sports.  My investigating time diminished greatly between home and work duties.  I would still read and when possible watch YouTube videos.  But over years I became a CTer (Conspiracy Theorist).  That’s what friends and family called me whenever the discussion went towards history or politics.  My response to them “No I’m a Conspiracy Realist”.  Our country didn’t operate the way we were taught.  Heck, the way I taught. I truly believe that our country changed on November 22, 1963.  It wasn’t the democracy under God that we had believed.

My first visit Dealey Plaza was in 1993.  A regional meeting took me to Dallas.  One day after meetings concluded, I drove my rental car over to Elm and Houston.  It was like stepping into history. First impression was what you hear so many say “It’s so small”.  How could we have lost our president in a little spot like this? How could there be all these shooters?  Why couldn’t anyone spot them?

Reading the works of writers like Mark Lane, Jim Marrs, David Lifton and many more.  I so admired all these researchers who devoted their lives to finding the truth.  They had become my heroes.  So it was, that this year 2022 at 72 years old I was determined to meet some of my heroes.  I signed up for The JFK Historical Conference in Dallas. With all my moves, I ended up living in San Antonio in October 2022, just a four hour drive from Dallas.

It was like being a kid on Christmas morning.  I was going to get to meet Robert Groden, Gary Shaw, Larry Rivera, Ed Tatro and more.  Finally November 17th rolled around.  My luggage was ready packed with every book that I owned of the authors that would be in attendance…I was determined to get autographs. Car packed, I started my trek towards Dallas. As I strolled up to the registration table, I saw several researchers at the bar to my left.  My registration completed, I turned and saw Robert Groden walking into the hotel lobby with his wife.  I was star struck.  I’ve met famous personalities and sports figures before and this experience felt exactly the same…star struck. He was so friendly.  And really seemed to appreciate the admiration I have for him.

I had become an acquaintance of Gary Fannin through Facebook and texting.  He asked me to call him when I got into town.  This was the first time meeting in person.  He was so friendly and invited me to join the group for dinner at the Egyptian Lounge.  The restaurant famous because it was owned by the Campisi Family and where Jack Ruby ate his meal the night before he shot Oswald. Of course, I enjoyed the Italian cuisine but I sat right across the table from Gary Shaw.  He is such a wonderful person. Kind and willing to answer any question from this newcomer. Gary is a wealth of knowledge.  Most of my questions to him were about all the witnesses he got to interview.  I specifically asked him about Babushka Woman, Beverly Oliver.  I have always doubted her story.  He assured me that he has known her for decades and trusted her implicitly.  Another query was had he ever felt threatened.  He quietly said yes but didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.  The early researcher were brave people.

Six AM – the alarm goes off and IT WAS THE FIRST DAY!  It was like that nervous energy you get on the first day of school or starting a new job.  I went to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. 

First person I see is Larry Rivera.  I introduced myself and he asked me to join them for breakfast. I have been a fan of Larry for years.  I particularly enjoyed his book “The JFK Horsemen” and his work on Blender.  Here’s where I noticed a common theme – just like Gary Shaw, Larry was so nice and down to earth.  LOL these researchers are real people! One interesting note: Larry reached into his pocket and pulled out a white object.  He asked me: “Do you know what this is?”  I did.  Recognized it as a replica of the Harper Fragment.  Larry has been working on making a 3-D version of it so people could grasp the actual size and placement of the evidence.

Conference days are not a vacation, we went from 8AM until well into the early morning hours.  This conference was very well organized by David Denton.  The first speaker was Casey Quinlan. 

I recognized Casey because I joined Project JFK.  This is a fabulous group for someone like me a student of the assassination but not a researcher.  In addition to Casey, David Knight and Brian Edwards the founding members of Project JFK were also speakers. This trio are just a great group of guys.  They’ll answer any question and provide guidance.  MY suggestion – if you’re a student of the JFK Assassination – you need to join this group.  It will provide you with a great perspective of the behind the scenes activity researchers go through.

Early on I realized two advantages of attending a conference: you get to ask questions and the best part is sitting around at meals and in the evenings just having conversations.  This is where you learn about the researchers’ struggles and breakthroughs.  How they initially got involved?  How it impacted their lives and the lives of their families.

There’s another impact the conference had on me.  I got to sit down and talk to Judyth Baker.  Frankly, over the years, I’ve been skeptical of her story.  I read her book and watched videos of her presentations.  I just hadn’t determined whether her story was real or was she interjecting herself into the story.  Meeting her in person gave me a comfort level with her honesty.  She seemed very sincere and so sweet. So another benefit to attending is to cement your feelings by speaking directly to the researchers.  Ask tough questions and then formulate a more informed opinion.

Then there is another aspect that I had never realized before…the artefacts. Many of the researchers bring items that they have either found or procured over the years. The one that impressed me the most was from the book “Coup in Dallas”. The author H. P. Albarelli Jr. has passed away but he worked with Leslie Sharp and Alan Kent on following the trail of Pierre Lafitte. Lafitte had ties to many of the people in the assassination story. Much of the focus being on Lafitte’s diary from 1963.  They brought the diary with them.  I got to see it and touch it.  I’ve even included some pictures of key pages including November 22, 1963.  A true piece of history!

The conference also affords you the opportunity to purchase some of the newer books to hit the market.  I purchased five books at the conference – all autographed.  On the humorous side,  I purchased the new book by Gary Fannin and Tim Brennan.  I’ve been in contact with Gary for a couple of years.  He’s got a great sense of humor.  So when he signed my copy of his book I jokingly said to him can you write: “To Rick the inspiration for all my work” but then Gary added “except for the stupid parts”.

In summary, going to my first conference was a huge success! The true value going way beyond the monetary value. For those of you contemplating going to one, I would say don’t put it off.  Unfortunately, Father Time takes its toll on all of us.  There are researchers that are true treasures.  But many are now in their 70’s or 80’s.  Go take an active role in history.  Meet this wonderful group of dedicated people. Ask questions, share a meal or a drink, laugh and get insights you can’t get from a book or a video.  This is a chapter of our history that changed our country – learn about it from those that helped to change the narrative from the Warren Report being the ultimate source to being one that we should question.  There’s much to be uncovered.  Don’t be a bystander become part of history by getting the true story from the shadows into the light.

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